The Greeley Elevator bears the marks of nearly 100 years gone by: a brick wall inside with scars from a facelift, a worn spot in the office floor from the busy feet of its longtime proprietor, Otis Axsom.
Ninety-four years after the elevator opened, Axsom’s grandchildren, who run the feed mill and store, have decided to close its doors, noting that agriculture has changed, and so has the role they play in it.
Owner Lisa Geib said she and her husband, Matt, are heartbroken to watch the landmark, family-run business go, but they’re grateful to their customers for many wonderful years and memories.
“It’s been an honor to be the proprietors of such a historical building and business, and it’s been a pleasure and an honor to be able to be trusted with these family projects,” Geib said.
The Greeley (Colo.) Elevator has been doing business since 1920, open “at least six days a week” since then, as Geib put it. The elevator was first a cooperative, and it became a company with shareholders at some point.
While the form of the business has changed over the years, from a focus on dairies and ranches to more of a niche group of livestock owners, the elevator has always received grains and other commodities from area farmers and turned those into feed.
Now, they sell pet food, small-animal feeds and seed, in addition to the feed they manufacture.
Geib said the majority of the business today comes from people raising small herds or flocks in their backyards or on small farms. Thanks to the smaller size of the mill, Geib said, the elevator is able to provide customized feed batches to best fit the needs of their customers.
“Most of our customer base is people who work full time and who are living that dream of a few acres and being able to raise their children with the ability to feed livestock and understand that aspect of life,” Geib said.
Patrons, from people with just a few head of cattle to state fair hopefuls, work with the in-house nutritionist, Dana Moore-Young, to find the best feed for their animals.
“We’re kind of the last of the small facilities,” Geib said.
Axsom, Matt Geib’s grandfather, took over as proprietor in 1925 and worked at the store for 60 years.
George Maxey, a customer since 1954, remembers getting in his pickup and heading from his dairy to the elevator to get feed, which back then was distributed in burlap bags, sewn up by hand. He said he knew Axsom well, and he saw him as a generous businessman.
“I know he bent over backwards to help his customers during the down times,” Maxey said.
Lisa Geib said Axsom was a great supporter of local 4-H groups and was a 4-H leader himself. She said he helped youth raising livestock with their feed, and he allowed them to have lines of credit free of interest.
Keeping with their grandfather’s tradition, the Geibs work to maintain that support for youngsters in agriculture, helping kids with feed in 4-H and Future Farmers of America.
Geib said they always purchase animals at county fairs and donate them to the Weld Food Bank.
“That’s been a big part of what we’ve done,” Geib said. “We just love that portion, getting to know families. We’ve seen generations come through here.”
Maxey’s son, Keith, now director of the Colorado State University Extension office in Weld County, said he remembers going to the elevator with his dad, sliding down metal ramps and watching workers bag feed.
He said the closing is sad news, especially since he’s seen 4-H-ers from all across the state rely on the Geibs for feed.
“Greeley Elevator was well-respected and well-known, certainly beyond the Greeley and Weld County lines,” Keith Maxey said.
Moore-Young, who’s worked at the elevator for about 13 years, said there will be a void in northern Colorado after they close up shop.
She said larger companies will be able to provide some of the same products, but only small mills like this one could work one-on-one with customers and develop rations that fit each one perfectly.
“That is the one thing that has set us apart all along,” Moore-Young said.
Geib said she and her husband have been talking about closing the business for about a year and a half.
She said the store is still hopping, but people are buying less than they used to — making it difficult to keep up with the overhead expenses.
“We’re competing for a smaller share,” she said. “People don’t have as many animals.”
George Maxey said he stopped his dairy operation in 2009 but still raises heifers and dry cows. While he doesn’t do as much business at the elevator as he used to, he said he’s disappointed to know he’ll have to go elsewhere, likely to a larger company.
“It’ll be sad to see them go,” he said. “They’ve been a mainstay there in Greeley.”
Geib said she plans for the elevator’s last day to be Feb. 1, a Saturday.
She said it was important to close up during a slower part of the season, and she wanted to give her employees enough time to find other jobs.
“This (timing) just feels right,” Geib said. “We’re family.”
She said she hopes for someone to come along with a fresh idea for the elevator, and she’s hopeful someone will be able to repurpose the historic building.
In any event, she said she’s proud that she and her family have had the opportunity to run the elevator.
“I don’t know that too many businesses can say that a family has run it and gone for 94 years,” she said. “That’s pretty cool, and we’ve been blessed to have been part of that.” ❖